Thursday, September 26, 2019

Machiavelli and The Renaissance

Machiavelli was disenchanted by the scholarship, art, and politics of the Renaissance. He does not deign to mention the prominent humanist scholars of his time in his Discourses on Livy. The only modern scholars that he mentions are Dante, Lorenzo de' Medici, and Flavio Biondo—while he mentions 19 ancient scholars, he begins the Discourses by criticizing the scholars who ignore the “ancient values” in politics, because they believe that they can honor antiquity by buying fragments of ancient statues for their homes. He is, however, convinced that the ancients were superior than the moderns and he reminds his readers that to devise a good political system we must relearn ancient virtues. The ancients that he admires are not the Greeks of the Classical Period (when the polis was the model of an ideal state), but the Roman Republic. Machiavelli's antagonism with the Renaissance is apparent from his criticism of Cicero, who for the humanists, was the most towering intellectual. Machiavelli insists that Cicero corrupted the Roman Republic by importing Greek philosophy, which made the Roman Republic weak and decadent. He is sympathetic to Cato’s failed cause of ridding Rome of the influence of Greek philosophy.

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